In 1984, the Mexican government passed a law that prohibits the modification or misuse of national symbols: the flag, the coat of arms, and the anthem. (The law also indicates how and when the presidential sash is to be worn.) Musicians, artists, poets, and writers are regularly denounced and even fined for violating the law, at least when they express views that are critical of the government. Meanwhile, Mexicans are allowed to produce and prodded to buy all kinds of merchandise stamped with these symbols, from stuffed golden eagles to green, white, and red beer koozies. These are on especially conspicuous display on September 15, when Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated and the president pronounces the ceremonial “cry of independence” at the capital’s flag-cluttered Zócalo.
In response to the government’s efforts to ensure that the national symbols are only used to aggrandize the state, Juan Caloca, an artist from Mexico City, created a video game (with the developer Emilio Peláez) called High Treason. The game will be previewed—and beta-tested by the audience—at the event and published by Triple Canopy in the coming weeks. High Treason situates the player in a harrowing version of the National Palace, home to the offices of the president, the federal treasury, and the state archives. Navigating the palace, whose colonial facade dominates the Zócalo, the player is shuttled into a network of subterranean dungeons, which act as galleries. The palace appears as an ironic national pavilion, filled with images and objects that undermine (and in many instances deface or desecrate) Mexico’s most sacred symbols—or, at least, their manipulation by the government. These are visions of the country as it is or might be, not as the government would like for it to be seen.
Following the presentation of High Treason, Caloca will speak with the theorist Luciano Concheiro and the curator Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy. They’ll discuss alternatives to the brand of nationalism fostered by the state, especially given the Mexican government’s unwillingness to care for its citizens or uphold the rule of law. (Just after Independence Day, Mexico will mark the third anniversary of the disappearance of forty-three students at a teachers college in Ayotzinapa, which has become an icon of the government’s abject corruption and disregard for justice.) They’ll ask how to wrest national symbols from the state and use them to foment opposition.
High Treason: A Beta Test is part of Standard Evaluation Materials, an issue devoted to harmonizing bodies, regulating speech, and fixing time; as well as Universal Time (Tiempo Universal), a series of collaborations with Mexican artists and writers that asks how political representation can be achieved—or recognized as a chimera, or disavowed—through the work of representing politics.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to ensure that events are accessible and comfortable, we’ll open the doors at 7:00 p.m. and strictly limit admittance to our legal capacity. Please check Triple Canopy’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates, as we’ll indicate if events are sold out.
Triple Canopy’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have specific questions about access, please write at least three days before the event and we will make every effort to accommodate you.
- Juan Caloca is an artist living in Mexico City and a founding member of Cooperativa Cráter Invertido and the collective Grupo (de). His work often concerns Mexican history and the ways in which it is remembered. His work has been exhibited at the 2016 Gwangju Biennale; Parque Galería, Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo (MUAC), Bikini Wax, and Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City; the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach, California; and Ivan Gallery, Alberta College of Art + Design, Canada.
- Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy is a curator and writer. She was recently appointed director of Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, a position she will assume on January 1, 2018. In the meantime, and since 2011, she works as the curator of contemporary art for Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, which has headquarters in Caracas and New York. Sofía is also a counselor for Fundación Alumnos47 in Mexico City.
- Luciano Concheiro is a Mexican theorist. His most recent books include Against Time: Practical Philosophy of the Instant, which was first finalist in the 2016 Anagrama Essay Prize, and Invent the Possible: Mexican Contemporary Manifestos, a collection of sixty manifestos written by young Mexican writers, artists, chefs, academics, and activists. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times and Nexos. He has an MPhil in sociology from Cambridge University and currently is a visiting fellow at the department of romance languages and literatures at Harvard University.